Winter Guide to the Best of Lake Louise, Banff National Park

Those of us living in Southern Alberta, Canada, know that if we want snow, Lake Louise is the place to go! Even when the prairies are dry, bleak, and completely brown, it is always a winter wonderland at Lake Louise.

Living in Calgary, I haven’t seen much snow yet this winter. I see the photos coming in from Lake Louise though, and the snow is sitting on the trees like giant mushroom caps. Trails are groomed and tracked for skiing or snowshoeing. The lake is already cleared for ice-skating (with a giant ice castle built on it!)

I love magical Lake Louise and hope you will add it to your winter bucket list if you haven’t been fortunate enough to visit yet.

Try ice-skating in one of the most beautiful locations in the Canadian Rockies

Affordable Accommodations at Lake Louise

While there is no shortage of luxury hotels and resorts at or near Lake Louise, we prefer to stay at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre.  The Alpine Centre is an upscale version of a youth hostel, with a communal kitchen and fireside lounge area. There is also a restaurant on site for those wanting the occasional break from cooking.

Book a private room at the Alpine Centre if you want a bit more privacy for your family or group. There are several options for rooms, and some come with their own private bathroom.

Find affordable accommodations at the Lake Louise Alpine Centre

Ski or snowshoe right out the door of the Alpine Centre, where you’ll find trails leading up to the lake and along the scenic Bow River. You’ll be located a short walk from the Village Centre, where you’ll find rentals for any sport you wish to pursue during your stay. You can also grab a free shuttle to the nearby ski hill when you’re in the village.

Walk out the door of the Alpine Centre to access trails like this around the Village of Lake Louise

Winter Adventure Guide for Lake Louise

Go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or fat biking on the village trails

Stop in at the Visitor Centre in the village for a trail map of the area. During the winter season, the Moraine Lake Road is closed to vehicles and is converted to a 7-mile long trail (one way) for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking. Make it to the end of the official trail and you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the lake.

Gorgeous views on the Moraine Lake Road, Lake Louise (Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography)

For a snowshoe specific trail, I recommend trying the Louise Creek Trail. This trail connects the Alpine Centre, the Village, and the Upper Lake in a 3.5-mile-long trip one way. Hike up to the lake with your ice skates, and grab a coffee in the Chateau. Then enjoy a nice leisurely hike back down to the Alpine Centre.

For Nordic skiers, I recommend skiing across Lake Louise to the far end. Here you’ll be rewarded with views of Louise Falls. You can also walk across the lake to view the falls if you prefer snowshoeing.

The Bow River Loop is another great option for skiing from the Alpine Centre. This 4-mile long loop starts and ends at the Village.  You can hop on the trail right from the hostel.

The Visitor Centre can recommend many other trails for whichever sport you prefer to try. Or you can spend a few days here and try them all!

Hike or ski across frozen Lake Louise to see the frozen waterfalls at the far end

Louise Falls at the back of Lake Louise, a short ski or hike away

Spend a day at the Lake Louise Ski Resort

Spend a day at the Lake Louise Ski Resort and enjoy downhill skiing (the obvious choice) or a variety of other activities including guided snowshoe hikes, sightseeing gondola rides, and tubing.

My son and I enjoyed the scenic half-day snowshoe tour at the resort, which includes a 30-minute return gondola ride. While we enjoy both skiing and snowshoeing, this is a great activity for those who do not ski, but still want to ride the gondola to enjoy the views from the top of the resort. The tour then goes on to explore the ridgetop above, just outside the ski area.

Enjoy a guided snowshoe tour at the Lake Louise Ski Resort

Go Ice-skating on Lake Louise and play on mountains of snow around the lake

Visitors can try ice-skating on the few rinks that are always cleared off on the lake. This is in one of the most beautiful locations in the Canadian Rockies and is beside an ice castle that is usually built in time for Christmas. The Chateau beside the lake provides skates for rent.

Ice-skating doesn’t get better than this at Lake Louise

You can also attend the Ice Magic Festival which runs from January 16th to January 27th for 2019. The festival has many family-friendly activities and features an ice carving competition as the main highlight. The completed ice sculptures along with the ice castle can be viewed throughout the winter until they melt in spring.

If you’re visiting with children, make sure you also bring sleds with you to enjoy on the hill located beside the Chateau. My son had a fabulous time skating, sledding, and playing on gigantic mountains of snow when we were at Lake Louise last winter.

Sledding at Lake Louise with mountains of snow everywhere to play in

Go dog sledding with Kingmit Dog Sled Tours

Kingmit Dog Sled Tours is the only professional dog sledding company in Banff National Park. Sign up for a tour and enjoy flying along the Great Divide Trail in a cozy sled pulled by a beautiful team of Alaskan Huskies. A trained musher guides each sled, but you can try driving the sled together with your guide on the return journey.

Dogsledding is a historic means of travel in the Canadian Rockies. This is a one-of-a-kind winter experience to try when visiting Lake Louise.

Dog sledding at Lake Louise (Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Paul Zizka Photography)

Take an overnight backcountry adventure into Skoki Lodge

Sign up for a guided backcountry snowshoe or ski trip into Skoki Lodge for 1-3 nights, all meals included. The journey begins at the Lake Louise Ski Resort with a ride up the gondola, followed by downloading a chairlift to Temple Lodge on the backside of the resort. From here, you’ll hike or ski 7 miles into the lodge over two alpine passes and across scenic Ptarmigan Lake.

For more information, read my previous story: In Search of the Ultimate Backcountry Ski Lodge (on snowshoes)

Sign up for a guided backcountry ski or snowshoe trip into Skoki Lodge from the Lake Louise Resort

Take a day tour to explore Banff National Park

Visitors spending several days at Lake Louise, will want to go exploring a bit beyond the village and the lake. I recommend taking a day trip to the Town of Banff, a 40-minute drive away. Here you can visit the hot springs or take a ride on the Banff Gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain. You can also go for a short drive out to Lake Minnewanka, Banff’s longest lake.

Take a day tour to Banff to visit the hot springs (Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Noel Hendrickson)

Going the other direction from Lake Louise, I recommend driving the scenic Icefields Parkway, one of the most beautiful highways in Canada. The Parkway heads towards the Columbia Icefields and Jasper National Park. Make sure you stop at Bow Summit along the way for a short 30-minute hike to the viewpoint overlooking Peyto Lake. This is one of the most photographed lakes in the Canadian Rockies. It is a 30-minute drive from Lake Louise to Bow Summit.

Reaching the Peyto Lake viewpoint is easy with a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis. You will follow a road (closed to vehicles in winter) up to the summer tour bus parking lot. From the parking lot, it is a 5-minute walk to the viewing platform. (Note that there is avalanche danger beyond the platform. Please return the same way and don’t go exploring too far afield.)

For more information on touring Banff National Park or the Icefields Parkway, stop in at the Lake Louise Visitor Centre for maps, detailed brochures, and suggestions for where to safely hike in winter without avalanche danger.

Ski or hike to the Peyto Lake Viewpoint on the Icefields Parkway


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